Flourescent Escher: Blacklight M. C. Escher Posters of the Hippie Era

Blacklight Gallery 

In the 1960's, several "hippie publishers" in San Francisco and Chicago produced blacklight 'day-glo' versions of Escher's prints, among them: Butterflies, St. Peter's Cathedral, Tower of Babel, Stars, Dragon, and Three Spheres I. The prints in these luminous colors glowed brilliantly under black light (actually, ultra-violet light). These posters sold in great numbers in poster shops from Haight-Ashbury to Greenwich Village and were thumb-tacked to bedroom walls and in college dorms throughout the world.

One story is that the publishers took the posters to The Netherlands to show Escher and Escher was incensed! Day-glo colors in daylight appear shockingly bright and appeared to Escher to be garish and downright gaudy. Escher was a conservative man whose main body of work was "the black of the ink and the white of the page".  Escher hated these posters and wasn't interested in mass-producing them in any way. This incident may have led to the stringent copyright protection of the body of Escher's work that lead to the artist's refusal to allow Mick Jagger to use an Escher piece for a Rolling Stones album cover.

Perhaps if Escher had viewed the posters under black light and seen the multi-dimensional enhancement that it delivered to his prints, maybe it would have been a different story. And there is another version of history that reports that when Escher saw these brightly-colored posters he was somewhat shocked, but felt that anything that spread recognition of his art must be seen as a good thing. As with much of Escher's work, perhaps we'll never know exactly what is truth and what is illusion!

The only extensive exhibit of these black light posters is on permanent display in our gallery in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Blacklight St Peters
blacklight Other World

- Jeffrey Price